This month, in our continuing coverage of bus operator training tips, we will cover the topic of safety blitzes.
What exactly is a safety blitz?
Think of a safety blitz as seeking confirmation that bus operators are in compliance, or non-compliant, with your standard operating procedures during an unannounced "spot check" of a specific skill set. A blitz may also be initiated in response to a sudden spike in unsafe actions being reported, observed or indicated by video review.
Why a safety blitz?
The goal is to gain an accurate account of what’s going on in your system.
There are several reasons you might want to consider initiating a “blitz.” Let's take a quick look:
- Customer complaints regarding operator’s use of cell phone while operating their bus.
- Operators have been observed using one hand to steer the bus.
- Operators failing to utilize their directional signals when entering a bus stop.
- Operators accelerating to cross intersection during yellow and red signal conditions.
- To establish that an "unannounced randomly selected" blitz can occur at any given time.
- To ensure that any unsafe act will not go unnoticed by management.
- To acknowledge and recognize those operators that continue to demonstrate safe consistent operation of their bus on a daily basis.
How can a safety blitz be implemented?
- Select the skill set to be observed for compliance.
- Identify the locations to position personnel to gather your information.
- Set a start and finish time.
- Agree on what verbal corrective action/remedy will be utilized for operators found to be non-compliant.
- Schedule a follow up blitz
- Provide incentives for compliant operators
When should it be conducted?
- Randomly, to see whether compliance is the standard operating procedure.
- During the probationary period of an operator in addition to onboard observation rides.
- After a spike in a particular collision or complaint.
Who will conduct the blitz?
- Supervisory-level personnel, preferably training department personnel.
- In cases where training dept. personnel and safety dept. personnel are on the same page with standard operating procedures — and this should always be the case — it can be a joint training and safety effort.
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I mentioned incentives for those operators found to be compliant during the "safety blitz." I knew of an agency that would provide patches, pens, lapel pins, hats, etc., to those individuals that were observed doing their jobs to the agency’s standards.
It would work like this: let’s say the blitz focused on the proper use of directionals entering a bus stop. An operator that was observed to be compliant in this particular skill would first be approached by the person conducting the blitz and made aware of his/her good actions. The operator would be given a ticket stub to turn in to supervision at the end of their tour. Upon turning in the stub they would be given the predetermined item selected as a reward during that particular blitz.
This is easy to implement, you can be creative as you want and most importantly unsafe behavior is quickly identified and can be dealt with in a constructive manner that will protect the operator, the agency and your loyal customers.
Louie is the former director of training for the New York City Transit Dept. of Buses Safety & Training Division and 2003 NTI Fellow. Currently, he is sr. consultant/SME in transit training & bus simulation at L-3 D.P. Associates and independent consultant at "Bus Talk" Surface Transit Solutions.
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Read our previous blog, "How to Maximize Peak Performance from Your New Transit Maintenance Facility"
Today I’d like to mention a few effective policies that were routinely utilized in the past, which were (and for the few agencies that still practice them) very effective in producing safe bus operators, including covering your right, terminal checks and company vehicles.
Operating a fixed-route bus in today’s distracted world requires high levels of focus and concentration. The brain must continually sift through loads of information during bus operation to determine what things can be ignored and what things pose a potential threat to our safety and well-being. Once the brain detects a potential hazard or threat, a specific response must occur to keep us from harm’s way. When our brains are forced to sustain this level of effort for long periods of time a great deal of energy is required.
It’s no secret that I am a firm believer in bus simulator training. I enjoyed the benefits of utilizing simulators as a supplemental training tool during my days at New York City Transit. The simulators helped us produce outstanding results by targeting specific outcomes. If your simulator training is not producing what you expected it to deliver, the answer is plain and simple: something is wrong!
One agency decided to conduct a “safety blitz” to determine whether mirrors were being set correctly and discovered, much to their surprise, that a growing number of operators were leaving the yard in a mad rush to avoid being late — deciding to adjust their mirrors at their first available opportunity. What they learned was that many of these operators left the yard with every intention of setting their mirrors correctly. However, once these operators began servicing their routes — the task appeared to "slip their minds."
In most organizations, 80% to 95% of all bus operators are found to be safe, reliable and courteous, but often, they don’t know it because nobody tells them. If safe bus operation represents a core value for your property, what are you leaders doing to encourage and reinforce the desired behaviors among your bus operators?